Bowling alley worker explains why bowling is so expensive now

@mr.heitzmanbindery/TikTok Aleksandar Karanov/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘Alley down the street is $75 before shoe rental’: Bowling alley worker explains why bowling is so expensive now

'I know the other reason: the Bowlero monopoly'


Jack Alban


Posted on Dec 31, 2023

If you’ve visited your local bowling alley and felt like one the pins getting absolutely massacred in a well-executed strike after seeing the cost of a couple of rounds on a lane, then you’re not alone. There are plenty of folks flocking to social media to ask a very simple and very pressing question about the past-time that has been oft-depicted as the working class way to blow off some steam: Just when in the heck did bowling become so expensive?

A bowling alley worker and TikToker named Marissa (@mr.heitzmanbindery) decided to address these criticisms by shedding some light on why folks are seeing a jump in the cost to reserve a lane. In a viral clip that’s garnered over 200,000 views, she delineated why bowling alleys have suddenly become such a pricey option for a night out and it boils down to two main factors: rising maintenance costs of traditional pinsetters and increases in employee wages.

The clip begins with someone wearing a beanie speaking into the camera, stating: “Bowling’s so expensive. Why does it cost $60 an hour to go bowling?”

This is actually a stitched clip with a fellow Marissa included at the onset of her video, before she eventually hops onto the screen the detail why the leisurely activity costs more than folks anticipate these days.

Initially, she delves in how pinsetters have become such a costly proposition for alley owners: “So the reason why is so more expensive now than what it used to be is because a lot of the older pin setters are anywhere from the ’50s, they were built in the ’50s all the way up into the ’80s. That being said they are amazingly built and so that’s why they’ve lasted so long the problem is that the companies that build the parts to fix the pin setters are going out of business and then the ones that are making parts still are super freaking expensive.”

Because the demand and mass assembly of these older pins are no longer in production, they’re becoming costlier, Marissa says: “Parts that used to cost like $5 a couple of years ago, cost like $35-$45 and then that being said another reason why bowling is so expensive now is because you have to pay your employees.”

She goes on to say that both her and her husband work in a bowling alley and that for the area they work in, they make a decent living doing so: “We have two bowling centers…under my company here in the town that I work in and we all make above minimum wage. And for that to happen we have to charge more for bowling so then we can afford to work here. Me and my husband both work here and we both make decent wages for [where] we are located at. That being said if you go to a bowling alley and if you break something, feel bad because now it’s really expensive to fix it.”

Marissa did concede that the TikToker who was speaking at the onset of her clip did cite an hourly lane charge she believed to be exorbitant, while sharing the rates that her alley charges: “Also $60 for an hour is very, very expensive ours is $50 for two hours, the price that gets you is the shoes. Shoes are $3.50 a pair but that’s because bowling shoes are super expensive because they’re made out of genuine leather at least most of them and then that way they can be sprayed with disinfectant and they won’t degrade over time.”

The TikToker caps off her video by stating that the aforementioned reasons are why bowling centers have become so much pricier in recent years, and there are other sources online that appear to back her claims. Funk Bowling writes that “one of the largest expenses of any bowling business is the costs associated with free fall pinsetter maintenance and repair work.” Ever whiff a ball down the lane before the pinsetter has fully retracted and your heavy ball crashes into it, resulting in a gnarly sound that probably can’t be good for the longevity of the machine? Yeah, imagine that happening multiple times a day for weeks at a time—the pinsetters need to be maintained to avoid excessive wear-and-tear to keep people re-enacting their favorite moments from Kingpin ad nauseam.

And then there are different types of pinsetters that are cheaper to install, fix, and maintain, but there are bowlers who say that the feel of the game is significantly altered by these “string pinsetters,” and they won’t play on lanes that sport them.

According to a Bowl-Tech forum post listed way back in 2002, one bowling business owner said that their costs in maintaining a single lane for a year ran around $450. These days, according to, operational costs for a single bowling lane with a traditional pinsetter can climb up to $6,000 per year, but that seems to be an exaggerated/worst-case scenario figure, as FinModelsLab reports that average cost of a pinsetter, in March of 2023 could cost a bowling alley anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000 a year.

Bearing these costs in mind, it’s understandable why some alleys, or arcades that have lanes as a side-attraction for guests might opt for string pinsetters, as they can purportedly save a business around $1,000 per year in operational costs per lane.

Some commenters who responded to Marissa’s video seemed satisfied by her reasoning, with one user stating that they will gladly pay a premium if they know employees are getting paid more as a result: “I’ll gladly pay more if I know it’s going to the workers wages.”

Another thought that the $50 for two hours rate that Marissa’s alley offered was a fair price, too: “50 for 2 hours is reasonable tho”

There were those who said while they understood where Marissa and other bowling alleys are coming from, they still can’t seem to justify the costs of some of the alleys that they’ve visited, like one person who penned: “I get it. but the alley down the street is $75 before shoe rental. the one 30 minutes away has specials, deals, and kids can bowl free in summer”

Another wrote: “$100 hour in my city,” while someone else shared an amount that was around in line (for two lanes) of what Marissa said her alley charged: “We just went it was $123 for 2 hrs 2 lanes. Was 9 of us”

@mr.heitzmanbindery #stitch with @Not Mark Bowling might be more expensive now then ever but it’s still fun!! #bowling #bowlingtiktok #bowlingtok ♬ original sound – Marissa

According to Bowling for Beginners, the average cost of a lane in the United States ranges from $20-$40 per hour, but it seems like there are certainly outliers, as evidenced by some of the commenters who replied to Marissa’s post. Redditors who’ve posted in the r/bowling sub also shared that the prices of different alleys, at different times of the day can vary greatly: I.e. a Saturday night is going to cost way more per game (as it’s in more demand) than what an alley would charge during a 2-6pm block on a Tuesday.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Marissa via TikTok comment for further information.

Share this article
*First Published: Dec 31, 2023, 7:00 am CST